God, Commerce, and Adam Smith through the Editions of TMS

Forthcoming in Journal of Markets & Morality

27 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2021

See all articles by Erik W. Matson

Erik W. Matson

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Date Written: September 14, 2021

Abstract

This essay provides an overview of the major changes across the editions of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). It deals with two issues relating to Smith’s theological and economic perspectives. Although Smith pares away some of the orthodox Christian theology in the later editions of TMS, even evincing a skeptical attitude in some moments about revealed theology and divine providence, his theory of conscience and the impartial spectator increasingly takes on a theological dimension. Second, the final edition of TMS implicitly presents honest commerce as a way of cooperating with the Deity in serving human happiness. The evolution of TMS points to a complexity in Smith’s theological perspectives and highlights interrelations of those perspectives with aspects of his economic philosophy.

Keywords: Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, theology, commerce, impartial spectator

JEL Classification: B12, B31

Suggested Citation

Matson, Erik W., God, Commerce, and Adam Smith through the Editions of TMS (September 14, 2021). Forthcoming in Journal of Markets & Morality, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3923909

Erik W. Matson (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

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Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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